Tag Archives: Critical Analysis

Moved by religion

When I have given lectures and consultations on migrations into and out of New England, a frequent topic of discussion regards the question of whether the migration was religiously or economically motivated. For the period of The Great Migration into New England from 1620-1640, the settlements by the English Separatists and Puritans were overwhelmingly religious (not for religious freedom, but to practice their religion the way as they wanted). Several “second-generation” settlements like Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut, and even migrations out of New England to Dorchester, South Carolina, were also religiously motivated, following a minister to a new town. By the mid-eighteenth and early nineteenth century, migrations out of New England were largely economically motivated for cheaper land and other factors. Still, occasionally a religiously motivated migration occurs, and sometimes they are at first difficult to spot. Continue reading Moved by religion

“Miss Winters in the drawing room”

The drawing room in question.

Several months back, Chris Child and I started playing a game we’ve dubbed “Genealogical Clue.” Playing a good game of it can be quite fun and challenging. Largely, it’s a game whereby we attempt to locate an individual in our respective family trees with a first name that resembles or is near identical to their surname. From this jumping-off point, the post or story is then titled by how we “place” those individuals in a Clue game-like situation. Keeping up with a master player like Chris hasn’t been easy, though. I’ve really had to dig deep to find some of my better “game board connections.” Sadly, most of my potential protagonists never seem to quite cut the ‘Colonel’ Mustard. (lol) Continue reading “Miss Winters in the drawing room”

Finding Francis

Finding Aaron, it turned out, meant finding Francis, a family connection in my own backyard. I’ve written several posts about my genealogical journey to learn about my maternal grandfather, John Joseph Osborne, and, in the course of that journey, I discovered ancestral roots in the ancient colony of Acadia in Nova Scotia; family members accused during the Salem Witchcraft hysteria; a great-great-great-grandfather who was one of the first patients to be operated on using ether; and a great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Aaron Osborn (the older version of the surname was spelled without the last e), who set out with his fellow Danvers militiamen on the morning of 19 April 1775 to answer the Lexington Alarm. Continue reading Finding Francis

ICYMI: Of Plimoth Plantation

[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 17 August 2020.]

Watching the videos of Mayflower II being escorted through the Cape Cod Canal brings weird thoughts to my mind. What if there had been a canal in 1620? Would “Plimoth Plantation” have been “Long Island Plantation”? Things would have been different, but since there was no canal, that stray thought is of no importance. Continue reading ICYMI: Of Plimoth Plantation

Here be dragons

If Our Old House builder, Asa Williams, had recently awakened from his 201-year eternal sleep, he would have seen, with fascinated but utter panic, the thunder of dragons that crawled up my driveway. (I think the blacksmith in Asa would find any fire-breathing dragons very useful … eventually.) As a patriot and devout Christian, he might have thought that Satan disguised as  King George had unleashed his “great red dragon” on him personally. Continue reading Here be dragons

Schools for architects

Several years ago, as part of an effort to find an image of my great-grandfather Edward Hughes Glidden (1873-1924), I set myself the goal of tracking down as many of his architectural commissions as I could. A relatively late convert to Facebook, I used my Facebook page and its album function to create miniature accounts of Glidden’s projects, with images and notes on the date of commission, any partners (he had several over the course of his career), and any notable owners or tenants of the resulting buildings. (Grandparents of family friends as well as the future Duchess of Windsor lived in Glidden’s Baltimore apartment buildings a century ago.)[1] Continue reading Schools for architects

Ancestors of Billy Porter: Part Two

Continuing  with the ancestry of actor Billy Porter, the story of note I found in the actor’s maternal ancestry was more immediate and quite tragic. Porter’s mother Cloerinda Jean (Johnson) (Porter) Ford was the daughter of James and Martha (Richardson) Johnson, and granddaughter of Thomas H. and Mary (Hines) Richardson. Thomas H. Richardson (1889-1923), a native of Cumberland County, Virginia, moved to Pittsburgh by 1910. Thomas and Mary had three children, and Thomas worked as a packer in a steel mill and as a plasterer. Thomas died young, at thirty-three, on 26 May 1923. However, the cause of death on his death certificate prompted me look at his life further – “Shock Hemorrhage following Gun Shot Wound Through right Breast.” Continue reading Ancestors of Billy Porter: Part Two

Finding Anastasia

The Mack family of Holbrook, Massachusetts, ca. 1925, with matriarch Bridget (Mahoney) Mack (1845–1927) at its center. Her granddaughter Therese (Mack) Doherty (1928–2020) helped me re-establish ties among lost branches of our family in Newport, Rhode Island.

This tale began with a headline – “Fatally Stricken While in Bank” – in the Newport Daily News on 5 January 1965 that described the sudden demise of Anastasia Dwyer, age 76 [sic]. A reserved, quiet, unmarried woman, “Stacia” always came to family wakes and sat alone. My Newport Dwyer relatives, with roots in County Kerry, Ireland, assumed she belonged to our clan but did not know any details. Stacia’s death certificate presented the first of many puzzles, beginning with the names of her parents: father — Dwyer, Patrick later inserted, and mother Abbie Mahoney [sic]. Informant: Patrick Mack of Holbrook, Massachusetts. Who was he? It struck me as odd that none of the Newport Dwyers supplied that information. Stacia had lived with her mother, Abbie Dwyer, until the latter’s death in 1946. Abbie Dwyer’s death certificate indicated her maiden name was Sullivan, the names of her parents unknown. A death notice in the Newport Mercury offered no additional information, but her funeral notice disclosed Patrick Mack as one of her pallbearers. Continue reading Finding Anastasia

Ancestors of Billy Porter: Part One

One of my favorite shows of the last few years has been the FX Original Pose, chronicling the lives of LGBTQ people of color in the ballroom culture of New York City during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and ’90s. With its amazing cast of talented actors, one of my favorite characters was Pray Tell, portrayed by the actor Billy Porter, who is known for his earlier work in Kinky Boots and more recently as the fabulous godmother in a remake of Cinderella. With Pose ending its season earlier this year, and Porter releasing his memoir Unprotected this month, I decided to explore the actor’s ancestry and found two very different stories, certainly representative of the variety of the African American experience over the centuries. Continue reading Ancestors of Billy Porter: Part One

Fractured fairy tale

The occasion for my visit that day was not Heidi’s death.[1] I’d traveled far to get there, and next to her sole surviving kin (a sister by adoption), I was the only other person that day who might give some sort of testimony to her life. Still, I had the strange feeling that I didn’t belong at her memorial. She’d been dead so long. Wasn’t there some sort of rule about having a service this many years after the fact? What can I say? I guess the existential genealogist in me was having trouble with all this ex-post mourning business. My mind reeled in search of some forgotten Mayflower mourning etiquette,[2] all of this brainstorming no more than an attempt to assuage the grief I felt for the loss of my friend. Continue reading Fractured fairy tale